Saturday, February 12, 2011

DOA Declines Federal Grant to Expand Broadband Fiber to Schools and Libraries

On February 11, Michael Huebsch, Secretary of the Department of Administration, announced in a memo to TEACH customers on which WLA was copied, that the DOA would be declining the $23 million federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant intended to expand broadband fiber to Wisconsin schools and libraries.

Huebsch wrote, "Following extensive examination of complex technical issues, and review of multiple alternatives, DOA, the BCN (BadgerNet Converged Network) vendors and the NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration) have exhausted all practical options. Accordingly, the BTOP grant cannot be implemented and DOA will be declining the award. Despite declining the grant, the DOA is happy to report that it will be immediately moving ahead with new BCN pricing and a new 5 year BCN contract extension which will allow DOA to meet its TEACH customers bandwidth needs."

DPI officials estimate that, if the contract extension is successfully negotiated, schools and libraries may be able to receive bandwidth increases similar to what was expected as a result of the failed federal grant. However, the loss of the grant is still regrettable because it means finite future capacity for these important institutions and their communities; copper wire can only provide so much bandwidth. In addition, libraries that were counting on the federal grant to pay for new routers to handle the increased bandwidth will have to seek new funding to cover those costs.

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